Donald Trump wanted a show in the Oval Office, so he got one. He just never expected that the title of said show would be, “Nancy Pelosi Takes Donald Trump to School.”
And, wow, what a show it was. It featured yelling and condescending and mansplaining and interrupting and bloviating. As in, a revealing look at matters of men, women, politics and power.
Pelosi – without raising her voice, without gesticulating wildly, without interrupting – flipped the script on Trump, revealing his naivete on the subject matter and her new position of strength.
In his office. Live on TV.
The entire back-and-forth reflected the reality that Pelosi – once before and soon-to-be-again House speaker – fully understands and Trump is still learning: He no longer can run roughshod over a co-equal branch of government and there’s a (capable and formidable) woman standing in his way.
Accustomed to a level of deference and sycophancy when he sits in that yellow chair in front of the fireplace, the President was not ready for what was to come.
Pelosi wasted no time in saying that a “shutdown is not worth anything” and slyly warned against a “Trump shutdown,” a phrase that caught the President’s attention, just as it was meant to.
“Did you say ‘Trump?’ ” the President asked, smirking and then turning to say something unintelligible to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as Pelosi plowed ahead.
(Spoiler alert: By the end of the meeting, Trump would fully embrace the idea of a Trump shutdown and declare that a shutdown was worth it. Take that, Nancy?!)
Then, there was this from Pelosi, explaining the current score:
“You have the White House. You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it.”
Translation: You have all the power … and yet?
Then the legislative math class starts (emphasis mine):
“Well, again, let us have our conversation then we can meet with the press again. But the fact is that legislating, which is what we do, you begin, you make your point, you state your case,” she said. “That’s what the House Republicans could do if they had the votes. But there are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall, no matter where you …
Translation: You need me.
Trump later suggested that Pelosi, who had spent her time in his office doing a lot of talking, was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”
Not a good move.
“Mr. President – Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory,” she said.
Translation: Boy, bye.
Translation: Don’t come for me, unless I send for you.
Translation: You lost.
Translation: I won.
Pelosi, in an after-meeting huddle with her caucus, cast the meeting in gendered terms, saying that Trump’s fixation with the border wall seems to be about something else.
“It’s like a manhood thing with him – as if manhood can be associated with him,” Pelosi said, according to an aide. “This wall thing.”
It was a surgically petty remark, aimed at the only presidential candidate to brag about the size of his penis on a debate stage.
She also compared him to a skunk and said she was “trying to be the mom” in the meeting.
But, really, she was trying to be the leader, and with her performance it is hard to argue, as a handful of Democrats have, over whether she deserves to be speaker.
Unlike most women, Pelosi talks up her qualifications, because she knows other women and watching and listening.
“You know why I do it? I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash. “You don’t run away from the fight.”
Her public fight with Trump was a preview of a show, partly about the ways in which women can perform their power, that’s likely headed for at least a two-year run.
Stay tuned, y’all.